MariaOrtega, 15, and her son, Miguel, decorate sugar cookies on Feb. 12 at a meetingfor teenage parents participating in the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers Program.In Tahlequah, Okla. (Photo by Christina Good Voice)
Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Schools offer new Head Start
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Public Schools are partnering to offer an Early Head Start class for children of teen parents attending Tahlequah High School. The class is set to begin this spring at THS.
The class will care for nearly 50 children between the ages of 6 weeks to 3 years. THS will provide the on-campus facility, while the tribe will provide staff and other necessities.
The facility will be located in the same building as the Tahlequah Central Academy, an alternative education program where many teen parents attend classes.
“Tahlequah Public Schools is excited to be partnering with the Cherokee Nation Head Start to expand their program to serve our students who are teen parents,” said TPS Assistant Superintendent Billie Jordan. “We have recognized the need for this program for years and have searched for ways to provide this service so that teen parents can attend school and at the same time learn hands-on parenting skills while their babies receive quality child care.”
Laura Baltazar, 19, said she’s excited the class is nearly open because it would give her peace of mind knowing her children, 3-year-old Elder and 7-month-old Eyzel, would be cared for.
“It’ll be easier because they’ll just be right there,” she said.
Bethany McDonald, who is with the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers at Central Academy, said the class would also allow parents to ease their minds about paying for daycare.
Baltazar said she pays $400 a month for daycare, but with the class she can start saving that money.
“This will help save a lot of money,” she said. “A lot of young moms, we want to come to school but we have our babies.”
McDonald, who works daily with the teen parents on parenting skills, said she sees the class as removing an obstacle to their learning.
“I see a great way for our (OPAT) program to partner with the Head Start,” she said. “I see it merging so well. We’re going to be able to have better access to our teen moms. They’re going to be right here.”
Some teen moms said the class would also help them be able to concentrate more on school if they know their babies are in good hands. Maria Ortega, 15, said she’ll be able to focus better once the Head Start opens because her 10-month-old son Miguel will down the hall.
“It’s going to be easier,” she said. “He’ll be closer to me.”
Principal Chief Chad Smith said the CN created the program to be a good partner in the community, to keep teenage parents in school to finish their educations and get the fathers of the children involved in the children’s lives.
“Through establishing this partnership with the school, we can help provide a way for the students to continue their education, which in turn will help the community,” he said.
Tribal and school officials agreed that students have a better chance of attending college or another form of post-secondary education upon graduation from high school.
Doing so will help the students better provide for their family later, Jordan said.
“There is so much research showing what an effective program it is anyway and how well those babies do in school,” she said. “If we want to talk about really overcoming poverty, Head Start is a great way.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Through the efforts of Sequoyah High School senior Maddie Lamb, she and her fellow students received a DJ’d dance party and taco festival on Jan. 9.
This past fall, the 17-year-old Muskogee (Creek) Nation citizen entered an essay contest through the Get Schooled Foundation’s “2016 Homecoming Court.” After her essay made the top 20, Lamb received the most online votes.
“You had to enter 150 words about how to prevent bullying in your school,” she said.
She is the Junior Miss Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and bullying prevention is a part of her platform, which she said made her decide to enter the essay contest.
“My platform is teen dating, violence, abuse and awareness. And so I told how that tied in with bullying,” she said. “And so I ended up winning… that’s crazy!”
For winning, Lamb received $100, a Microsoft surface Pro 4 and DJ dance party for the entire high school and $5,000 worth of food from Taco Bell, which was one of the contest sponsors. Lamb and Sequoyah Schools also won one more prize – money to create a mural in the old SHS gym.
“We got a call about a week after I won,” she said. “They (Get Schooled Foundation) said, ‘well we got some extra funding, and we’ve never done anything like this, but do you know any artists?’”
Being an artist herself, Lamb said yes, and as she put it, “It just kind of worked out.” With the assistance from renowned artists Dana Tiger and Daniel HorseChief, Lamb created a mural and a method in which each high school class could contribute to creating the mural.
“Once we drew the design on the wall, we divided it into sections. The freshmen had a section, then the sophomores, juniors and seniors. The whole goal of it was just to let everyone in the entire school help out with it,” she said.
Get Schooled Foundation’s Director of Strategic Partnerships Naomi Jefferson, who came from the Get Schooled New York City office, explained the foundation’s mission.
“We at Get Schooled really stand for empowering students and supporting them to fill their passions and to make sure they have the resources, support and tools they need to pursue their education to the highest degree,” she said. “Maddie Lamb and Sequoyah High School are great examples of what student leadership looks like.”
For more information on the Get Schooled Foundation, visit <a href="http://www.getschooled.com" target="_blank">getschooled.com</a>.
WASHINGTON – The Department of the Interior announced on Jan. 11 that an additional $7.9 million has been transferred to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund, bringing the total amount contributed to more than $47 million.
The scholarship fund – funded in part by the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations and authorized by the Cobell Settlement – provides financial assistance through scholarships to American Indian and Alaska Native students wishing to pursue post-secondary and graduate education and training.
The Cobell board of trustees oversees the scholarship fund, while the Indigenous Education Inc., a nonprofit corporation created to administer the scholarship program, oversees it.
“Our hope is that these young people will not be forced to rethink their decision to pursue an education because they are worried about whether they can afford the tuition and fees necessary to attend post-secondary and graduate institutions,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior Department Michael L. Connor. “Through contributions from the Land Buy-Back Program, the scholarship fund is helping the next generation of Native American and Alaska Native students reach their goals and attain an education that will make them competitive in the 21st century workforce and beyond.”
The Cobell board of trustees has reported that to date, nearly 1,800 scholarships totaling more than $5.25 million have been awarded to almost 1,000 Native American students for undergraduate and graduate study.
The scholarship awards are $5,000 per semester for undergraduates and $10,000 per semester for graduate and doctoral students. Applications and information concerning scholarships can be found at <a href="http://www.cobellscholar.org" target="_blank">www.cobellscholar.org</a>.
Alex Pearl, Cobell board of trustees chairman, said: “The latest distribution helps our mission of carrying out the vision of Elouise Cobell to enhance educational opportunities for American Indians and Alaskan Native students. Recently, President Obama honored Ms. Cobell by awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The president’s recognition of her leadership and dedication to fighting long-standing injustice on behalf of individual Indians is a testament to her life. The Cobell board of trustees is honored to continue her legacy and further her impact on Native people. We remain committed to creating a uniquely tuned and perpetual scholarship program designed to respond to the needs and issues of Native students.”
The Land Buy-Back Program was created to implement the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractionated interests in trust or restricted land from willing landowners. Consolidated interests are transferred to tribal government ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal citizens.
The Interior makes quarterly transfers to the scholarship fund as a result of land buy-back sales, up to a total of $60 million. The amount the Interior contributes is based on a formula set forth in the Cobell Settlement that sets aside an amount of funding depending on the value of the fractionated interests sold. These contributions do not reduce the amount that an owner will receive.
WASHINGTON – The Indian Health Service on Jan. 10 announced the opening of the application period for its 2017 scholarship and loan repayment programs with improvements that look to increase the long-term workforces at eligible Indian health facilities.
An estimated $13.7 million will be available for scholarships and $30 million will be available for loan repayments this application round.
New scholarship applications are due on March 28. Current scholarship recipients interested in extending their awards must apply by Feb. 28. Loan repayment applicants must apply by Aug. 15, and applications are evaluated monthly beginning in January or as soon as funds become available.
IHS officials said they are refocusing both programs on the most-needed disciplines in Indian health programs units such as physicians, physician assistants/nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, behavioral health providers and optometrists, and eliminating disciplines that do not address key vacancies at these facilities.
As a result, an increase of 60 additional awards in the most-needed disciplines is anticipated for a total of 200 new scholarships awarded. IHS is also increasing the number of graduate scholarships that require service in Indian health programs and reducing the number of preparatory scholarships that do not require any service.
“The IHS Scholarship and Loan Repayment programs are two of our best recruitment and retention tools to increase the number of health care providers serving Indian health programs. We’re re-aligning the program based on current needs to best serve our patients and to address key vacancies in Indian health programs,” IHS Principal Deputy Director Mary L. Smith said. “Rural areas are faced with a shortage of doctors and nurses. These programs help make IHS more competitive in attracting talented and qualified health care providers to work in Indian health facilities.”
The IHS Scholarship Program provides qualified American Indian and Alaska Native health professions students the opportunity to establish an educational foundation for a career in health care and serve medically underserved Indian health programs throughout the country.
Since IHS began providing scholarships in 1978, nearly 7,000 students have received awards.
The Loan Repayment Program awards repayment of up to $40,000 for qualified health profession education loans to clinicians. Opportunities are based on Indian health program facilities with the greatest staffing needs in specific health profession disciplines.
Officials said that in the past year IHS has used new recruitment incentives, expanded pay scales and increased the availability of relocation incentives to recruit qualified staff. IHS also increased the number of facilities that are eligible placement sites for National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program participants.
For more information, visit <a href="https://www.ihs.gov/scholarship/applynow/" target="_blank">https://www.ihs.gov/scholarship/applynow/</a>.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma's state school superintendent says every public school district will be able to choose between the ACT and the SAT college entrance exams for high school juniors this spring.
The Tulsa World reports administering the test this spring will be optional, but it is strongly encouraged so schools can be prepared for next year when students' scores on one of the exams will likely determine whether the state considers them proficient.
Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said Tuesday that access to both the ACT and the SAT gives a pathway to post-secondary education for all Oklahoma public school students.
The state's new academic standards and overhaul of the A-F school accountability system are designed with a greater emphasis on college and career readiness.
EDMOND, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Malia Hixson, 15, an Edmond Memorial High School freshman, was recently nominated to be a delegate for the Congress of Future Medical Leaders conference set for June 25-27 in Boston.
Dr. Robert Darling, medical director of the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists, nominated Hixson.
Hixson said she has a 4.0 grade point average and that her grades were part of why she was nominated.
“It’s because my grades,” she said. “Also because (of ) a little questionnaire we did at the beginning of the year. It was asking about your career path and your interests and stuff, and I put that I wanted to be a dermatologist. So the convention is about like medical sciences and stuff. So obviously that would be a part of that category.”
Hixson said part of her interest in dermatology came from her mother as well as what she learned in science classes.
“My mom, she’s a medical sales representative, and she’s always loved dermatology, and I’ve always been interested in it,” she said. “I just think it would be really cool. I’ve always known that I wanted to go into something medical, and every time I learn about something like that in school, like skin, I’ve always been so interested.”
She said while at the conference she hopes to gain a greater insight into what it means to be a doctor as well as more information about the medical field.
“I hope to gain like what it means to be a doctor and how much people are helped,” she said. “Also, I’ll be watching some surgeries and stuff, and I’ve never experienced that. I obviously know I want to be in the medical field, but I want to make sure that I want to be a dermatologist. I just want to expand my knowledge about doctors and medical science in general.”
Hixson said it was an “honor” to be nominated as a conference delegate.
“It’s such an honor to be nominated, and I’m so excited to learn about all these things because I’ve always had an interest in it,” she said. “I just don’t know a lot about it so I’m just excited to expand my knowledge about everything in that area.”
<strong>A Student Spotlight features Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band or Eastern Band students whether they are in grades kindergarten through 12 or higher education, excelling in school or doing something extraordinary. To recommend a student, email email@example.com.</strong>
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma school Superintendent Joy Hofmeister wants lawmakers to consider adding $221 million more to an already stressed public schools budget for textbooks and covering school employee health insurance, among other things.
Hofmeister delivered a budget presentation Wednesday to members of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee ahead of the legislative session that begins next month. Oklahoma's public schools received about $2.4 billion in total legislative appropriations last fiscal year.
"We recognize this is one of the largest requests that will be brought to you," Hofmeister said. "We feel we have a duty and an obligation to make sure the request that we ask is going to fulfill the needs of students."
The state faces a nearly $870 million shortfall in the budget that starts July 1.
Hofmeister, a Republican who was elected in 2014, seeks $66 million for textbooks and nearly $40 million to help pay for increased costs of health insurance for school employees.
She separately proposed a $282 million package to give teachers a $3,000 annual pay raise and add four additional instructional days to the school year. Oklahoma has not increased its minimum salary schedule since 2008, and its average annual salary including benefits is about $44,921, according to figures released by the Department of Education on Wednesday. That compares to a regional average of about $48,450 and a national average of $58,064.
"Regionally, we've got to work to provide regionally competitive pay or we will continue to lose teachers to other states," Hofmeister said.
Gov. Mary Fallin and Republican leaders in the House and Senate have emphasized the need to raise pay, but say it'll be difficult without raising taxes.
Rep. Leslie Osborn, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations and Budget Committee, said it's likely lawmakers will consider a plan to phase in raises over several years, but she said she would like to see any such proposal also include a pay hike for all state employees.
"I don't think we should do one until we do both simultaneously, a stepped-in pay raise for state employees and teachers, because they're both paid poorly," said Osborn, R-Mustang.
Some Republican House members criticized Hofmeister for not presenting legislators with more ideas for saving money.
"In a year in which we are facing a revenue deficit close to $900 million dollars, Superintendent Hofmeister offers no real solutions for streamlining our education system to make it more efficient and to target student needs," said Rep. Kevin Calvey, R-Oklahoma City.
Hofmeister is facing felony charges that accuse her of illegally raising money for her 2014 election bid, but she didn't address those allegations Wednesday. Hofmeister has pleaded not guilty and said previously she would "vigorously defend" herself and had no plans to step down.